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Home > June 2012 > "Were the Founding Fathers Deists (Part 7)?

"Were the Founding Fathers Deists (Part 7)?
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

But what about Benjamin Franklin?  Now he was a confirmed, dyed in the wool, Deist, right?  Right.  And maybe not so right.  Yes, Benjamin Franklin was a skeptic.  He doubted the inpiration of the Bible and the deity of Christ all his life.  He considered himself to be a Deist.  . . .he believed that God created the world but is not really all that interested in His creation today.  Prayer is a waste of time, since God is not involved in the affairs of mankind.  But if Franklin were a Deist, then he was also a very inconsistent one.  

Ben Franklin certainly did not consider himself to be an enemy of Christianity.  He pretty much had a "live and let live" attitude.  One of his very good friends was the evangelist George Whitefield.  Franklin loved to hear Whitefield preach, and one time estimated the crowd listening to the evangelist to be about 30,000 people.  Franklin was there, listening to the message.  He often printed Whitefield's tracts and sermons and supported Whitefield's charitable work.  As much as he admired George Whitefield, and loved the social effects of the "Great Awakening" that was sweeping America, Ben Franklin never believed George Whitefield's message of redemption.

But Franklin did believe in prayer. . . .pretty inconsistent with Deism.  During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, during a rather "testy" part of the assembly, when it seemed like no one was getting along, james Madison recorded that Benjamin Franklin stood up and said this:

"In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark ot find political truth and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought or humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understanding?  In the very beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.  Our prayers, Sir, we heard and they were graciously answered.  All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor.  To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity.  And have we now forgotten that powerful friend?  Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance?  

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth that God governs in the affairs of men.  And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?  We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that, "except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it."  I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel:  We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages.  And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortuanate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest. 

I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate that Service."

Whoah.  So whaddaya think?  Some Deist, huh?  Even though Ben never came to a biblical faith, it looks pretty clear to me that he believed that God had spoken, that He had revealed Himself to man through the Bible, that He answers the prayers of men, and that no human government should be built without His aid.  Not bad for a Deist. . . . 

Saturday, June 02, 2012, 12:35 PM

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Some Vocabulary in the Gun Control Debate
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